Separated by a common language
I'm talking about Taiwan and China. But President Ma Ying-jeou has a solution to that "problem."
Yesterday, President Ma called civic groups from both sides of the strait to work together on a joint dictionary, and while he did not provide many details, such a dictionary would presumably close the gap between Chinese and Taiwan dictionaries. So we would see a listing of both Hanyu Pinyin and Zhuyin Fuhao, simplified and traditional forms, cross-referencing of variant vocabulary, inclusion of slang from both sides, etc. Ma even proposed a name for this dictionary, the Comprehensive Zhonghua Dictionary (中華大辭典).
It sounds to me like Ma's thinking just a little too much. For one thing, if I am not mistaken, work along these lines has already been done. There are already very comprehensive dictionaries published both in Taiwan and China which allow for look up by stroke count, radical and Hanyu Pinyin (though I imagine only Taiwan also publishes Zhuyin). Plenty of dictionaries list simplified and traditional forms together. Still, I imagine few dictionaries cross-reference cross-strait variant vocabulary or include slang from both areas (correct me if I'm wrong!).
For another, this is a baldly political proposal despite its apparent innocence. Ma is amped up for more joint-strait "Greater China" projects that emphasis shared cultural heritage. There's nothing wrong with the idea for a dictionary like this; it's just politically stupid of the president to mention it mere days after drawing fire for implying Taiwan should learn to write simplified characters (he instantly retreated). And all this comes at the same time the government cuts down mother language instruction in elementary school.
Really, the publishing of such a dictionary is trivial, which gives you insight into why Ma would even care about it. Symbolism matters, and the KMT is doing all it can to re-introduce a very China oriented cultural framework in Taiwan which aims to slowly transform the boundaries of domestic political debate and opinion.
Labels: Language policy